Madrid-- a Perfect Student City Past Review

By (English Literature (British and Commonwealth)., Rhodes College) - abroad from 05/28/2012 to 07/07/2012 with

IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned that putting yourself in a new place with new people is invaluable for figuring out who you are! I love going to a small school but there is nothing that can replace breaking out of that bubble and your comfort zone.

Review Photos

IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The classes for this program were not very difficult; that said, I appreciated that I learned a lot but was not constrained by the need to study a lot. I really did learn, but I just didn't have to spend all my time studying, and could instead devote more time to soaking in Madrid.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Everything was so well organized! There was one office in our study abroad center where we could sign up for everything or ask any questions. All the sign-ups for cooking classes, flamenco classes, field trips, tours, etc. were all in the same place and our trips were very well organized.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in an apartment owned by IES Abroad and it was SO nice. While most people in Spain don't have dishwashers/dryers in their apartments, ours did, plus a very spacious living room and dining room, a dining patio, and a bunch of single rooms. They were also about to install an air conditioning in the apartment (not the norm in Spain) when our program ended, so whoever moved in for the fall semester gets to benefit from that as well! Every apartment has a compañero/a, a Spanish student (usually a grad student) who is there to help you adjust to Spanish life, answer questions, and ensure that you're getting enough Spanish practice in at home since you're not living with a Spanish family if you're in a student apartment. I absolutely loved my compañera-- she was so sweet! Random side note-- IES also kept buying us new appliances for the kitchen, like a juicer! Small but nice when you're in an unfamiliar place.

* Food:

Spanish food is good, though there isn't as much diversity in the food there as in other countries, so by the end I was ready for variation in my food. I cooked for myself because I was in an apartment, which I really liked, but I know that Spanish señoras are infamous for making sure no one goes to school with an empty stomach-- in fact, people in homestays often said that they had too much good food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Of course as a study abroad student you will never become completely integrated, especially in a program that is only 6 weeks, but Madrileños are exceptionally friendly and willing to integrate you into their daily lives/culture. I made many Spanish friends and spent many nights sharing tapas with them and speaking with them. IES staff made sure that on field trips we all spoke Spanish and learned as much about the culture as possible.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had occasion to need to visit the doctor while I was in Madrid, and while I was worried that it would be a huge confusing hassle, it was actually fairly painless. The IES center set up an appointment for me at the Unidad Medico which was easy to get to and everyone spoke perfect English (something that's nice when you're navigating the healthcare system). I had to pay a small copay but that was not a big deal at all (I think it was like 15 euros or something).

* Safety:

Though Madrid seems fairly safe to me, it's a big city with tourists so pickpocketing is always a concern. IES set up a meeting for us with local police at the very start of our program where they told us how to identify/avoid pickpockets, which was good, but there were still a few incidents. I almost got pickpocketed on a busy metro once, but luckily realized before the man got anything, and my roommate had her things stolen at a discoteca on a crowded dance floor. The important thing is to be really aware of your things and the people around you!

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

My parents had to help me out with money while I was there because I'm used to having a job at school that helps me with money, but that said, Madrid is less expensive than many European cities. I went to London after my program in Madrid ended and spent more on public transportation in 1 week than in 2 months in Madrid. I probably saved some money cooking for myself whereas people who stayed in homestays without kitchen privileges usually had to have tapas for dinner out at a restaurant or bar because dinner isn't provided in the meals.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? No
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent probably 20 euros on groceries per week, maybe 40 euros at bars and discotecas (which can be expensive), and probably 30 euros on other expenses.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? It's very tempting to shop, but that's an easy way to lose track of how much money you're spending. Also, going out at night can get expensive so look for the discount cards that people on the street try to give you-- even if the place ends up not being fun, you spent no money and can just go on to the next place.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Whenever IES staff members were around, they wanted us to speak Spanish (and that included field trips, classes, etc.). My compañera spoke mostly Spanish with us unless we were really struggling because we didn't know certain vocabulary, then she would switch over to English.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? A 400-level Spanish class
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Make Spanish friends! It's easy to stay with the American students in your program all the time and only speak English, but you won't practice at all this way! I had a friend in Madrid who had studied at my home university the year before, and I made several good friends while I was there, and I got to practice so much around them!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The people (staff, students)
  • The city (big but not touristy)
  • The included things (cooking class, trip to Valencia, field trips, etc.)
* What could be improved?
  • It took awhile to get our final grades after we left
  • Some people lived very far away from school
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known that 6 weeks would not feel like enough (and that I would meet people that I want to stay in touch with forever)!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Intermediate Grammar

Course Department: Grammar
Instructor: Ana Martín
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: We were required to take a grammar class; I was in the middle level. Though grammar is unavoidably boring, Ana Martín made it as fun and relatable as possible. She mixed in grammar lessons with lessons on culture and current events in Spain, and besides our two exams we had a few writing and conversation projects that helped make the class more interesting. Overall, I was glad to have a review of grammar because I hadn't taken a grammar class since my freshman year of college.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Art in the Prado

Course Department: Art History
Instructor: Andres Úbeda
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This class was amazing; Profesor Úbeda is very intelligent and always prepared for class. Class was in the Prado Museum, which is one of the best art museums in Spain and Europe. We took 2 exams, a midterm and a final, and did one sort-of project, and other than that the class was all participation! This was one of the coolest classes I've ever taken.
Credit Transfer Issues: